WBRU Birthday Bash a smashing success

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By Jocelyn Cote
Reviews Editor

On Wednesday night, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island was packed to the brim for a sold-out birthday celebration. Local alternative radio station WBRU marked its 43rd year by holding its annual “Birthday Bash” at the 1500-person venue. The bill consisted of four bands often showcased on the station’s playlist: The Rice Cakes, Ra Ra Riot, The Joy Formidable, and Passion Pit. Concert-goers on the floor remained packed like sardines throughout the show, while fans in the balcony were able to take more of a breather. An air of excitement lingered over the crowd for the entire show, and rowdy teenagers often followed suit by pushing and shoving those around them.

First onstage was The Rice Cakes, a local band that won this year’s WBRU Rock Hunt and therefore won their spot as opening act. Overall, they were a very typical opener – their set was fairly short and energetic, and the trio was obviously psyched to be onstage. However, they were fairly forgettable. The crowd gave them praise after each song, but there was little movement during their set aside from the occasional head bob. However, their electro-jazz fusion was an interesting way to start off the night.

Ra Ra Riot

The second band on the bill was New York natives Ra Ra Riot. Their unique lineup consisted of the typical band format of singer, guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but also included a violinist and a cellist. The strings added a unique twist to their already layered sound that made them stand out from the other bands on the bill.

Their setlist consisted from their first two studio albums, 2007’s The Rhumb Line and 2010’s The Orchard, along with their newest single “Beta Love” from their upcoming album of the same name.  The band closed with their hit single, “Boy.”

By this point of the show, the crowd began to get especially riled up. Pushing and shoving became more commonplace, to the delight of some but the annoyance of others. Passion Pit is a band known for having rowdy crowds, but the excessive rudeness seemed to be a bit extreme irregardless.

After an extended period of setup time, Welsh indie rockers The Joy Formidable took the stage, opening with the anthemic “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade.” Fans of the band towards the front showed their support by singing along while others more unfamiliar with their music looked on in awe.

The Joy Formidable are known for their heavy, energetic sets, and this performance was no exception. The band fed off the crowd’s increasing energy like hungry wolves, with each song growing heavier and heavier in sound to the point where the entire house was shaking.

The Joy Formidable

Although their setlist was only seven songs, the band played for around 45 minutes. Some songs were lengthened by extended “jams,” including the final song of the set, their most popular single “Whirring.” The floor erupted into a full-on mosh pit, crowdsurfers included. Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan leapt off the stage in front of the barrier and sent her guitar off into the crowd, and when returned she gave it to a diehard fan in the front row who had waited over two hours for his spot.

Even though The Joy Formidable weren’t the show’s headliner, they were definitely the stars of the night in my opinion. Their high energy was incredible, and it was obvious that they were shocked at how crazy the crowd was getting during their set. They are certainly an indie act to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Finally, after hours of waiting, the crowd was delighted to welcome headliners Passion Pit to the stage. The band have their roots here in Massachusetts – lead singer Michael Angelakos formed the then solo project in Cambridge in 2007. One EP and two albums later, Passion Pit has grown to become one of America’s premiere indie pop acts.

Recently, their single “Take a Walk” from their newest album Gossamer has become a hit on the radio, hence why it was used as the opening song. Not one person in the crowd was standing still; one was either caught in the mosh pit or dancing their heart out.

Their setlist consisted of an even mix of their two albums Manners and Gossamer. The main set closed with “Sleepyhead,” their debut single that put the band on the musical map back in 2007. In true birthday party fashion, streamers and confetti rained from the ceiling upon the crowd. By this point, the whole house was simply lost in the music.

The band returned to the stage one last time for a single-song encore, “Little Secrets.” The concert finally came to a close around midnight – a staggering 5 hours of musical bliss for everyone in attendance.

As a whole, this year’s Birthday Bash was certainly a celebration to remember. While the crowd was a bit of a disaster, especially on the floor, all four bands delivered stunning performances. I feel like I completely got my money’s worth for my $25 ticket.


Author’s note: for a few more shots from the show, check out my set for the night on Flickr.